New developments in Poole and Reading were both found to have a significant number of faulty gas installations, with the same company responsible for both locations.
The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) led to the prosecution of DSI Plumbing & Heating, together with Robert Percival and Andrew Church, at Bournemouth Crown Court yesterday (22nd September 2014).
The court heard that Harbour Reach in Poole contained 261 flats and 79 town houses, while Caversham Road in Reading contained 60 flats. They were heated by gas boilers installed on internal walls, with flue gases, including poisonous carbon monoxide, vented to the open air by flues installed in building voids. In such situations inspection hatches must be provided to allow the flues to be periodically checked for safety.
At Harbour Reach, HSE’s investigations found faults including gas leaks, and flues and gas supply pipes that had not been properly fitted – establishing that the initial installation work was substandard, and that the final checking and commissioning of the work was inadequate and ineffective.
There were no inspection hatches originally installed in any of the ceilings of the flats, meaning that the flues could not be subsequently checked for safety. As a result, the gas supply to all 340 gas meters on the Harbour Reach site had to be disconnected until remedial action was taken.
The investigation also revealed evidence of defects in the installations in 309 (or more than 90%) of the dwellings at Harbour Reach. At Caversham Road in Reading, HSE’s investigation uncovered defects in the gas installation affecting 40 properties. As at Harbour Reach, inspection hatches were not initially installed to allow the flue system to be inspected, and defects were found with both gas supply and flue installations.
Mr Church completed the commissioning documents for the work without carrying out the required checks.
DSI Plumbing & Heating Ltd, of The Square, Fawley, near Southampton pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,000 in costs.
Robert Percival, of Legion Road, Poole, and Andrew Church, of Ensign Drive, Gosport, both pleaded guilty to a single breach of the same legislation, Mr Percival for his commissioning of gas installations at one property, and Mr Church for making false entries into documents. They were both given a two year conditional discharge and were each ordered to pay costs of £250.
HSE head of operations Harvey Wild said after sentencing: “These serious failings involving gas safety only came to light after residents started to complain about ill-health. It is fortunate that in this case, no-one suffered long term ill-effects but the consequences of the faults, if left undetected, could have been fatal.
“Gas installers need to make sure flues and pipes can be properly checked and all installations are checked for safety as part of commissioning to ensure lives are not put at risk.”